For years, scientists, doctors, and even philosophers have assumed that the body’s spinal cord is at the root of numerous disorders other than back or neck pain.
But the chiropractic profession did not emerge until the late nineteenth century, on September 18, 1895, in the tiny offices of the Palmer Cure & Infirmary in Davenport, Iowa.
Late that day, Daniel David Palmer, a Canadian-born man, was in his office, and decided to strike up a conversation with the building’s janitor, Harvey Lillard.
Palmer observed Lillard was practically deaf and asked as to what had caused him to lose his hearing. Lillard didn’t know, but he informed Palmer that he started losing his hearing when he had a back injury while stooping in a confined position. Lillard recalls hearing a “pop” in his back and suffering hearing loss for years after that.
It was a finding that concluded what Palmer had long felt was an undeniable link between the spine and disease: spinal column misalignment interferes with proper nerve activity, leading to a variety of ailments. Palmer felt that restoring Lillard’s hearing might be possible if he could return the popped vertebrae in his back to their natural place. Using a procedure termed the “spinous process,” Palmer carefully moved the vertebra by pushing it with his hand firmly.
Miraculously, Lillard’s hearing started to come back! Palmer continued to align Lillard’s spine over the following week, and his hearing steadily improved each day. Palmer developed the name chiropractic from the Greek terms chiro, which means hand, and practic, which means practice. He committed his practice from that moment forward to the use of the new therapy.
Palmer used spinal alignments he called “hand treatments” to treat illness, sciatica, migraine headaches, stomach issues, epilepsy, and heart disease in the months that followed.
Chiropractic adjustments were not widely accepted by the medical community, despite Palmer’s early triumphs. Palmer was later charged with practicing medicine without a license and sentenced to 105 days in prison and a $350 fine.
Palmer wrote two well-known books: The Science of Chiropractic (1906) and The Chiropractor’s Adjuster (1907). (1910). He died in Los Angeles in 1913, at the age of 68.
Bartlett Joshua, his son, carried on his father’s work and was essential in establishing chiropractic as a certified practice.
The chiropractic profession emerged as a recognized area of the healing arts in the twentieth century, owing largely to study and acknowledgment by the government and medical community. Here are a few examples:
• In 1930, the American Chiropractic Association united with the Universal Chiropractors Association to become the National Chiropractic Association (NCA).
• The National Chiropractic Association established the Chiropractic Research Foundation (CRF) in 1944 to promote and secure research funding.
• The National Chiropractic Association was renamed the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) in the 1960s, and the CRF was renamed the Foundation for Accredited Chiropractic Education, with the primary goal of assisting chiropractic colleges in achieving accreditation.
• The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) was recognized by the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1974, and the Foundation for Accredited Chiropractic Education was renamed the Foundation of Chiropractic Education and Research (FCER).
• The United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare sponsored a spinal manipulation research conference in 1975, which raised awareness of the need for study. As a result, the Chiropractic Research Council (CRC) was formed to bring together research directors from the country’s chiropractic colleges.
• The Foundation of Chiropractic Education and Research expanded its research program in 1979, and a competitive scientific review process for submitted ideas was established.
• Today, the outcomes of chiropractic research are frequently published in 14 English peer-reviewed chiropractic publications.